Mogadishu sinisterly opens with a battered, wired fence enclosing a dark and empty stage, yet as soon as the school bell rings the young cast fill the theatre will their incredible energy. This swift and sharp contrast sums up Mogadishu: the cast had me simultaneously laughing and crying. Franzmann movingly grapples with the tensions between class, peer pressure and race yet somehow manages to incorporate comedy leaving the audience in a whirlwind of emotions.
The play begins as Amanda, is shoved whilst trying to prevent a playground brawl, by Jason, a black student who is continuously in the head masters office. Desperate to protect Jason from being permanently excluded from school, Amanda makes excuse for him due to his troubled background. Yet the audience are drawn in as Jason convinces his gang to twist the story. Dunster then shows the devastating effects of false accusations not only for Amanda, who is passionately played by Julia Ford, but also for surrounding careers, relationships and even lives.
The tough storyline had the audience gripped and whilst interviewing people during the interval everyone was eager to get back to their seats to see how the unpredictable plot would unravel. The audience struggled to decide where their sympathies lied: was it for the compassionate yet naive Amanda, her enraged yet clearly anxious daughter Becky, the head teacher who is torn between procedures and faith in his staff or the accuser, Jason. The audience can empathize with all of them due to their underlying similarity; they all feel imprisoned by their loyalties, their society and their pasts and this is emphasized by Tom’s Scutt’s symbolic stage design of the cage.
Each cast member fantastically embodies their characters and I left the theatre wishing that it was on on-stage series, wanting to know more about the each of them since they were all so unique, captivating and realistic. In this way there are many parallels to be drawn between Mogadishu and the BBC series, Waterloo Road, however the intensity of this performance is incomparable due to the outstandingly talented cast which means the play immediately becomes personal and easy to identify, not only for teens but it sends the entire audience back however many years ago to when they were in secondary school.
This is a must-see and I fully agree with the Daily Telegraph: ‘The play of the year? Quite possibly.’
Mogadishu runs until Sat 25 Feb – book tickets online or call the Box Office on 024 7652 4524